Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Review: Remember Tomorrow by Gregor Hutton

Gencon Indie

Indie games tend to grab my eye quite a bit. Sure I love your Dungeons and your Dragons, your Worlds of Darkness, and your Legends of your 5 Rings, but when it gets right down to it, like with movies, music, and comics, some of the best, most exciting stuff on the market is on the bleeding edge, and this is where we tend to find indie RPG's.

Of course we began playing table top games with the best horror RPG out there - Dread - which is also an indie game. Dread first attracted us in its gimmick of using a Jenga tower for conflict resolution instead of dice. It was also statless and kept things simple. The focus is on story, and this is something that we seem to see a ton in indie games.

We tried several other games (and liked several of them), but it wasn't until Fiasco that we found our next big game. Fiasco keep things simple like Dread but focuses on a different theme - that of the plan gone horribly, terribly wrong - and twists it to be GM-less. I'd wanted to find a good GM-less game, and after playing Fiasco just once, we knew we could always rely on it for a good time. Keep reading to see what Remember Tomorrow has to offer!

One of those other indie games we tried with 3:16: Carnage Amongst the Stars. Gregor Hutton designed the game, and it's incredibly tightly-focused on playing a group of space marines killing any and all alien life you come across. We've played 3:16 several times now and the rules just click. It's extremely focused on the theme and does its job well. When Gregor announced he'd be releasing a new game at Gencon, both with a wider set of rules and that would be GM-less, I knew I had to pick it up right away on the first day of the convention.

Remember Tomorrow?

"Remember Tomorrow is set in a place called Somewhere. Maybe it was once Glasgow, Dusseldorf, Milan, Reno, Auckland, or Hong Kong. Everywhere in the world is Somewhere, dig? Make it up as you go, building upon elements brought in by the other people around the table. And bring your A-game too. Tell us of places you've been, read or heard about, twenty-minutes into the future that's Somewhere." (Remember Tomorrow, p. 5).

Forget CyperPunk, SteamPunk, or WhateveryouwantPunk, I think I've found the rules to play any kind of noir game I could ever want to play. Remember Tomorrow is, at it's core, a rule set to play out mysteries in a spontaneous and excited way. It's also only $10.00. It's also independently-produced and the money goes right to the designer. You're really running out of excuses at this point to not go over to Box Ninja and purchase a copy for yourself. Need more convincing? Read on.

We (TheBro, The Gamer Wife, and I) played our first game of RT last night. We didn't finish it out - just played a couple of rounds to get a feel for the game. Character generation was a ton of fun. Eachplayer creates a PC that will start the game as their "held PC" (this matters because players can introduce new PC's throughout the game but only hold on to one). The PC has three stats - Ready, Willing, and Able (R,W, & A). Whenever you roll for your scene goal (once a round all characters and NPC's make a roll to see if they make their goal) you roll 3d10. You then match any die results equal to or lower than a corresponding R,W, or A stat and see which side had the most successes (only assigning one die max to each stat).

That's the basic mechanic, but of course there are other things that go into it. One of my favorite parts is the use of conditions. There are positive conditions (armed, dangerous, financed) and negative conditions (hunted, injured, trapped) which you will gain and lose throughout the game. Its really describes the state you're in and give you a boost or hurt you, then they go away. There are no hit points, but if a character gets both injured and dying as negative conditions, they can then be removed a.k.a. killed by giving an additional negative condition. These conditions really make for a very dynamic game with characters constantly changing. It also forces you to develop the story. I'll explain my character's opening scene just to show how it works.

Bandit Skara (yeah, the names are kinda funky 20 minutes in the future) works for a big-time gang, the Dusseldorf Brothers. He's a low-level squad leader who has two guys in his crew - Brainy and Brady. Part of Bandit's job is to go to the local Doll Houses (brothels where the whores are cylon-like humanoid robots) and get some "insurance" money from the owners to "protect" the House. Bandit goes to Barbie's Playhouse and talks to Rupert, the owner.

See, Bandit's type (a randomly roled feature at the beginning of the game) is operative - he's muscle in a gang or a crooked cop - someone else's flunky. His motivation is power (again, rolled at random at the beginning of the game). Every character has a goal they have to write down based on your type and motivation, so Bandit ended up with the goal to rise to the top rank of the Dusseldorf Brothers gang. He has conditions Dangerous (he's got nothing to lose - Positive) and Hesitant (not enough muscle to make the move - Negative). These conditions are chosen at character generation. He also has Ready 4, Willing 5, and Able 3 - he's more than willing to make his move, but like I said, he's just not quite able yet because he lacks funds and men.

So Bandit goes in, roughs up Rupert a little bit while Brainy and Brady use the dolls' "services." I make my roll to see what benefit I get from Rupert and get a 5, 8, and 9. I match my 5 to Willing since it's equal to or less than the stat. I get one success so I chose to add the Financed Positive Condition - I swindled more money than was necessary out of Rupert and so he's unwittingly become a financier in my conquest.

Generally speaking, each player's goal can only be reached by successfully attributing a success on a die to each of your stats. You have to tick off a box for Ready, Willing, and Able, and once you've done this, your character makes their success.

The game is GM-less though, so each player is responsible for creating a faction as well. These factions look a lot like characters, but they can be used by anyone and all want to screw over all the players always. They have Influence instead of R,W, &A. Scenes are then played out between PC's, PC's and Factions, or to introduce additional PC's and Factions to the game.

I think the Gamer Wife put it best with this game when she compared it to Fiasco. In Fiasco, you create a concrete web of relationships and props between players and then you see how that actually plays out and develops your characters. In RT, you develop your character and then have the freedom to see how their relationship web develops throughout the game. A word of warning - it's incredibly open and demands creativity. You see all the names and places (okay, place) I explained in my example? You're not going to find any of those things in the RT book - they were all my own characters. RT lets you really tell a story, but it demands a lot of your own creative juices in the process.

I'm really looking forward to taking the basic system (PC's and Factions, Conditions, R,W, & A etc.), removing the futurist flavor from it, and using the rules for new genres. I really want to make this playable as an adult (i.e. not students at Hogwarts) Harry Potter game in the adult setting of that universe. That's not to say you can't make a game of this at Hogwarts, but it's a little limited. RT benefits from big open-ended worlds with casts of thousands. It would also be fantastic for a straight spy/espionage game in modern times - something like Alpha Protocol is probably going to be served incredibly well by these rules.

For more on these riffs, I'm hoping to have a post up tomorrow with specifics on what to change - so make sure to come back!

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